Update: Windows Genuine Advantage - What it is, how to ditch it

Want to remove Microsoft's WGA Notifications? Here's how to do it safely and smartly.

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On several of my computers I didn't find WGA installed, but I did find an installer for it that seemed poised to run the installation. Presumably that's because those computers were using the Automatic Updates setting that automatically downloads but does not install updates without your permission. They're usually located in a folder with a name consisting of gobbledy-gook (hash of alphanumeric characters) found the \Windows\softwaredistribution\download folder. It's possible to delete these folders, but remember that WGA Validation and WGA Notifications are different things, and you need WGA Validation to get security patches. Folders that contain WgaTray.exe and/or WgaLogon.dll are for WGA Notifications. When in doubt, leave them as is.

You may find that the operating system blocks you from deleting these folders. If so, you can either reset the file object permissions (assumes you have Windows XP Pro with the NTFS file system and you're running with Simple File Sharing turned off) or you can boot into Safe Mode and try deleting them there. If you're not sure how to do these things, it is truly not worth bothering with. Leave well enough alone.

Preventing Recurrences

You're not quite done yet. If you don't follow this next set of steps, you may find that WGA Notifications has reinstalled a couple of days or hours from now. I've written these steps specifically for Automatic Updates, but there's a corresponding, almost identical set of set of steps in Windows/Microsoft Update. It's faster, in fact, to use Windows or Microsoft Update since you don't have to wait for Automatic Updates to discover that WGA Notifications is missing from your PC.

1. Change the Automatic Updates Control Panel setting to "Notify me but don't automatically download or install them." From now on, you will need to closely monitor every update that Microsoft wants to install on your computer.

2. Wait for the yellow shield icon to appear in your system tray that signifies that updates are available. This can take as much as two days, but it's usually only a couple of hours.

3. Click the yellow icon and, if prompted, choose the "Custom Install" option, which will bring up the "Choose updates to download" dialog.

4. Remove the check mark beside any entry that contains the words "Windows Genuine Advantage" and click Close. (If there are other security updates waiting to install too, leave their check marks in place and they will continue to be available later.)

5. Yet another box will open labeled Hide Update. Remove the check mark beside "Don't notify me about these updates again."

Some WGA Resources

These additional sources of information are required reading about WGA:

Finally, send the author e-mail if you have learned something about WGA or would like to suggest something that would help with WGA removal or installation prevention. Thanks.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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